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Saturday 19 December 2015

☵ Book Covers Were Better In The Seventies - Paavo's Pix

Conan of Cimmeria', published by Sphere.  Something about the cover caught my attention from the start - the titles, in their bold, uncluttered light blue modern font; the dramatic artwork; the black background to the titles which gave the cover a unique look.  I felt as though I was buying something quite different. Later, I discovered the whole Sphere Conan series at a WH Smiths in Romford.  They covered an entire display case - all with the same format, only with different coloured titles for each book. And that wonderful artwork as well - as though Landseer had been let loose in the Dark Ages.  I eventually discovered that the cover art was by Frank Frazetta, widely acknowledged as one of the great fantasy artists.  I soon bought 'The Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta' and dreamed of lost Sphere 'Conan' books and the title colours that would go with each picture.
In the mid-seventies, I bought my very first Conan paperback, '

In short, not only did the series look unique.  It also set my imagination working.  The same is true of the Michael Moorcock books published by Mayflower, also in the seventies.  They all had a clean, white modern font that set them apart on the bookshelves, and a cover design that was a mixture of psychedelia and Tibetan religious art.  'The King of the Swords' is still my favourite.  There was a look to the covers that made you want to collect them all.

The same could be said of sci-fi artist Chris Foss's iconic designs for Isaac Asimov's books, almost photographic in their realism, blazingly colourful, but again with a title font that was clear and recognizably Asimov.

The seventies were the first time I was old enough to buy my own books.  My decisions on what to buy were often based on the look of the covers, and there seemed an endless range of unique covers to choose from.  It may be my imagination, but fantasy book covers have come to look increasingly generic.  Back then, covers were one-offs - individual and creative; Pauline Baynes' design for 'The Lord of the Rings' with its arching green trees, striking red lettering and oddly depicted creatures peering from the edges, is a case in point.  When I saw the cover at the age of 12, I knew I was about to buy a serious book.

Two others come to mind.  My school library held the C.S. Lewis 'The Space Trilogy' in Pan paperback, their strange covers a dark amalgam of Yellow Submarine and Art Deco.   While the Puffin version of 'Catseye' by Andre Norton,which I was given one Christmas as part of a science-fiction box set, was like something I had not seen before - there was an artistic 'quality' to it, like Pop Art.

I could go on. I will let these covers speak for themselves though, and ask one thing - where are all the uniquely creative fantasy book covers today?  I mean, covers that have a look absolutely like no other.  If you know of any, do let me know.  I am more than happy to be proved wrong.

Paavo Shaman
(BooksChatter contributor)


BooksChatter said...

This is a comment from a user on Twitter:
Jason McDowell ‏@JasonMcDowell8 7h7 hours ago
@BooksChatter At the very least, certainly more colorful (and maybe more influenced by LSD?)

Rhonda Albom said...

I like the art on these types of books too although I think my daughter likes the current superhero genre covers.

Gerhard Gehrke said...

So few covers today count as fine art. Budget constraints must factor in with smaller pubs and indie authors.